Arsenal v Liverpool 2009

Arshavin steals the show in this memorable 8 goal thriller.

Both teams desperately needed points. Liverpool hoped to keep their title hopes alive and Arsenal wished to secure their place in the Champion’s league with three more points: This set out to be an interesting match.

In the 36th minute, Fabregas skipped around the back and put in a well placed, yet dubious pass to Arshavin in the center of the box. He pulled the trigger and hit the underside of the cross bar, bouncing the ball just behind the line. Many Liverpool players screamed for offside, which should have been given.

Sometime after the interval, Liverpool capitalized on the Frenchman’s mistake: Sagna’s sliced clearance fell straight to Kuyt who placed the ball perfectly for Torres to smash home a wonderful header after leaping above numerous players, leaving Anfield bemused.

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‘They think it’s all over’: Arsenal number 23 scores four delightful goals, but was it enough?

The root of another Liverpool goal came from another defensive mistake, but this time Fabianski. Another cross from Kuyt is headed home by Benayoun. For a split second there is hope for Arsenal as Fabianski claws the ball out of the net, but his fumbling fury does not help as it is clear the ball crossed the line and the goal is given. 2-1, Liverpool are ahead for the first time this match.

Eleven minuites later, Arshavin catches Aurelio day-dreaming and runs in on goal. 25 yards away from the target, the Russian fires a shot towards Reina, which delightfully curls round the Spaniard.

Just three minuites later, Aurielo is awareded with his second assist of the day as he passes a Nasri cross straight into the feet of another Arsenal player. Guess who? Arhsavin, who takes a moment to compose himself and then fire the ball straight under Riena once again. Suddenly, Arsenal are ahead and looking stronger than the home team.

A team is most vulnerable just after scoring and Torres’ second goal shows us why. Two minuets after Arshavin’s hat-trick goal, the Liverpool number 9 worms his way past Silvestre with a fake shot and rockets a low but powerful shot towards Fabianski who can only parry it into his own net. 3-3 and all to play for now.

It’s not over yet: the Gunner’s keeper punts the ball out from a corner and within seconds Walcott’s sprinting from deep in his own half with only one defender in front of him. It’s the 90th minute and the little Russian, with unbelievable pace, gives Theo support and is free to his right. And then, as if by magic, Arshavin finds the ball at his feet and after a perfect first touch, slots home his fourth goal this game to surely seal three points.

It isn’t over until the fat lady sings and with a few minuets left, she is silent and so is Anfield. But in the dying seconds of stoppage time, Benayoun is given acres of space to put away his second goal. The roof of Anfield is lifted and both Arsenal and Liverpool are forced to take just a point each, making this game an absolute classic.

‘Gorilla Film’ Publication

Last Ditch Therapy

– APRIL 3, 2013

Written by Marianna Ladas and Allison Volk, Last Ditch Therapy is a short film about a husband and wife who run into marriage troubles. After a recommendation, the couple reluctantly signs up to a therapy program, which is orchestrated by a mysterious doctor/magician. Oh and Elvis turns up. Confused?

The film begins with the couple driving through an idyllic neighbourhood, and almost immediately there is a sense of tension between the husband and wife, which is apparent just from their body language. Allison Volk (the wife) and Matt Wright (the husband) play the duo well but Wright’s performance becomes a little tiring by the end: his attempts at comic lines and mannerisms feel out of place in this movie. Nevertheless, the physicality at the start and the end of the film skillfully portray how much the couple grow together throughout the story.

Suddenly, we’re thrown into the presence of the strange (and appropriately chilling) doctor, who resides in an almost Gothic setting. The doctor uses hypnosis to send the couple to sleep, where they apparently experience lucid dreams. This is where things start to get inconsistent. For example, the husband’s vision is one of him provocatively dancing with his wife. Yet, in the wife’s hallucination, she sees two alternative versions of herself, who battle it out for her attention. But her husband is nowhere to be seen. This is somewhat indulgent on Volk’s part. Also, how would these illusions actually help a marriage? How does dancing with a sexier version of your wife, or watching your alter ego playing a harp, strengthen a relationship? Frankly, it wouldn’t help. At all.

Confusion is apparent throughout the film. This isn’t necessarily bad though, even ten minutes in it’s not clear what is happening, leaving the audience with the desire to find the answers. Except they never do. One scene, which makes no sense at all, is the one prior to the couple’s visions. They are led into a room and their fortunes are read by a crazy witch woman. This bears no relation to the plot and seems highly unnecessary. It’s only purpose is to break up the couple physically, but that could have been done by leading one into a different room (saving five minutes of everyone’s time). What is also used to excess is the musical interludes. One of the wife’s alternates plays the harp for a few minutes in a segment that looks more like a music video than a short film.

However, there is redemption in the closing scenes. The doctor’s portrayal of the couple’s relationship as being a theatrical piece is a clever metaphor for how the couple changes thanks to the therapy. That said, the heart-warming touch in the conclusion does not detract from Last Ditch Therapy being disproportionate in the focus between the husband and wife, and this results in a jumbled mess of sporadic sub-stories.

‘Le Vallée (Obscured By Clouds)’ Review

Set in Papua New Guinea, Le Vallée (Obscured By Clouds) is a tale of love, adventure and the pursuit of happiness. It follows a group of young French travellers who seek to find the eerie, unknown place, known only as ‘the valley’. Almost by accident, the explorers are joined by a rich, young aristocrat who, in an attempt to do business, follows them.

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‘I can see the valley’

Barbet Schroder, writer and director, aimed to use the idyllic landscape of Papa New Guinea to convey the paradise-like state of ‘the valley’. Strangely, Schroder originally wanted it to be filmed on a boat, but due to budgeting limitations, he took a skeleton crew of just a dozen people to Papua New Guinea to a region that was truly undiscovered and only described on maps as being ‘obscured by clouds’. He states ‘it was something that made you dream’ and therefore the film was subsequently set and filmed there. The setting used adequately provides the characters with the surroundings the plot warrants.

Unfortunately, the wooden acting of many of the actors does not help the film’s cause. Although, the aristocrat, Vivian, played by Bulle Ogier, meanders from sadness to happiness to excitement convincingly. But, many of her supporting cast do not do so with such ease. Michael Gothard plays Oliver, a sceptic of the valley, and his performance is one of a dull-faced nature. This was perhaps intentional as Schroder explains Oliver was actually a satirical view of hippies, as he intentionally likens them to mere ‘tourists’. His lack-lustre role contrasts greatly with Gaetan, the leader of the group. Jean-Pierre Kalfon conveys clearly the character’s passion to find the mysterious region.

The story eventually leads them to a tribe, who take them in. What Schroder does here is very effective: he shows the contrast between the two groups. He uses this to explain how the group is not ready for ‘the valley’ and are still infantile in their knowledge of the island. Nevertheless, the Mapuga tribe show them the way and with the skills they learn they are seemingly ready to continue their expedition. Interestingly, Schroder uses a genuine tribe and the footage shown is real and not falsified. Apart from a few lines, this particular sequence could be taken straight out of a documentary. It is almost wholly about the tribe, which adds a new dimension to the film, but unfortunately diverts from the plot for a significant part of Le Vallée.

The real gem of the film is the soundtrack. Pink Floyd’s ‘Obscured By Clouds’ is sporadically splashed throughout. It opens Le Vallée, but is subsequently suppressed throughout the entirety of the film. Only at times, through the car radio for example, do you hear the soundtrack, even slightly. This is a shame as the album was specifically made for this film and is only used a handful of times. Nonetheless, Pink Floyd’s creation does supplement the film well, at the rare occasion is it used.

Le Vallée explores the themes of travelling, expeditions and beating pigs round the head with bats. Overall, the film’s setting is a wonder to behold and the ending leaves many questions to be asked. Although slightly flawed, Pink Floyd’s, somewhat infrequent, contribution paired with an impressive cast, make Le Vallée a 1970’s hit.

73/100

Jack

24/3/13

The Winter’s Tale, Grand Opera House York

‘Inch-thick, knee-deep, o’er head and ears a fork’d one! Go, play, boy,play: thy mother plays…’

The Winter's Tale

Leontes and Hermione: Fitzgerald plays the alleged adulteress.

Many consider The Winter’s Tale to be one of Shakespeare’s weaker plays: the RSC shows otherwise in this astounding performance. The audience is quickly immersed in the passionate and seemingly loving relationship between King Leontes and his wife, Hermione. Within minutes, the ‘disease’ in Leontes’ mind spreads; his illness is his belief that his childhood friend, Polixenes, is being unfaithful with Hermione.

Jo Stone-Fewings plays the deluded, enraged king and does so with precision. He delivers the part with such tenacity that the audience somewhat pity him, whilst simultaneously despising him. In this performance  Leontes is physically violent which is not so much shown in recent renditions of this play, but on this occasion it adds another dimension to his character. Tara Fitzgerald plays Hermione, a character which needs a powerful actor. She uses her maternal nature alongside her strong but loving composure to deliver her important speeches with emotion, resulting in nothing less than extraordinary pity in the audience’s hearts. Paulina’s role is key and Rakie Ayola gave the best portrayal of said character I have ever seen. Ayola’s physicality with her fellow character paired with her damning exclamations to Leontes are spoken with the combination of subtlety and harshness. The real star of the show was Autolycus: Pearce Quigley shows the jester to be a camp joker which adds a light touch to a dark play. William Dudley’s set shows how Leontes not only ostracises himself emotionally, but also physically and this adds a whole new light to The Winter’s Tale.

The Royal Shakepseare Company shows that this play is in fact on of Shakespeare’s best plays: The combination of a captivating cast and diverse set make The Winter’s Tale one not to be missed.

78/100

Jack

21/3/13

‘Argo’ Review

‘If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit.’

Am I watching the same film as everyone else?

The story is set in the late 1970s, amid a volatile Iranian revolution due to British and American interference. The US embassy is overthrown and 6 Americans are able to escape. The film is essentially how the US government launched a cover story to extract the escapees from Iran.

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Smile! You won an Oscar!

For starters, the fact the film is based on real events makes it immediately enthralling. But once you begin to realise that the key word in that statement is ‘based’, the film becomes less plausible. There are certain scenes towards the end which clearly embellished the truth: in true American-film style, the Iranians are racing down the runway in an attempt to stop the aeroplane. It could have been taken straight from Skyfall. Affleck has later admitted that parts were added and modified to make it more entertaining. Firstly, the British embassy did hold the refugees for several days, whereas in the film, it is stated they are turned away by the UK. Also, the film insinuates that the Canadians took credit for the operation, although the US did all the work: Jimmy Carter, former president of the time, states that in actual fact ’90 percent of the contribution to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian.’ The film fails to mention this.

The actors used for the 6 escapists look remarkably similar to the actual Americans. Towards the end, there is a comparison shown between all the main protagonists and the real people and the similarities are uncanny. Credit to the casting department. On the other hand, Ben Affleck gives a dreary performance which bores the audience. I am a huge fan of Good Will Hunting, but in this he plays a depressed CIA agent who looks as happy as a kid getting socks at Christmas.

Overall, this film is distinctively average. An interesting plot, filled with exaggerations and scenes straight from an action film. Affleck does a good job directing, but looks near-suicidal throughout the film. At times very tense, but so far from the truth, Argo becomes just another action film.

43/100

Jack

20/3/13

‘Cloud Atlas’ Review

‘No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.

What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?’

Many months ago, I saw an interview with Tom Hanks concerning this film. He spoke of its connecting stories and interesting characters. From that moment on, I really wanted to see this film. I went to the cinema with bated breath, but did this movie live up to my expectations?

Firstly, the premise of the whole film is one a unique nature. The inter-twining stories provide Cloud Atlas with a groundwork for a potentially great film. The ease in which the stories slide between each other is very clever, but, at times, leave the audience somewhat bemused. Nevertheless, they all contain different characters, genres and themes, but, simultaneously, all contain similar events: not the events themselves, rather the nature of them. For example, if one story contains an emotional converse, so does at least a few of the fellow stories (at the same time in the film). If one story contains danger, another contains a threat also. The fact that all of the stories where directed by three different people is all the more startling: it is bearly noticeable as the film slides between at least 3 stories at an given time effortlessly.

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The Wachowskis used a similar setting to the one in their 1999 classic, ‘The Matrix’.

The first story (chronologically) is about a young lawyer who supposedly catches a deadly worm, which he fights of through the entirety of the film, whilst also attempting to save a stowaway: a slave who attempts to escape. The story’s main protagonist is played by Jim Sturgess, who gives a captivating performance of a ambitious yet naive young man. I really enjoyed his performance in this and thought he fit the part perfectly and of all of his other characters too. His youthful presence brought a refreshing contrast to that of Tom Hank’s evil character in this particular story. Next is a tale of an, also youthful, composer who eventually writes the Cloud Atlas sextet. This is a running motif throughout and can be heard all the way through the film, subtly placed in nearly all of the stories. For example, the melody is heard in the diner ‘Papa Song’ set may years later. Ben Whishaw plays the aspiring musician who falls deeply in love; his charming performance quickly induces pity in the audience throughout his sad story of love and fame. Subsequently, in another story, Halle Berry plays a stubborn journalist who attempts to uncover the secrets of a shady oil company. She has a great on stage presence which quickly shows the audience there is a tough woman behind her looks. She adapts wonderfully to her various roles, something which all of her fellow characters do well also. Years later, Jim Broadbent plays a publisher who has lost his way, which adds a comic twist to the film. His story is of troubled writer who gets locked into a care home with the monstrous nurse played by Hugo Weaving. Weaving plays, constantly, the villains in the tales: he uses his chilling voice and demeanour to spook the audience in nearly every one of the stories. Much like V for Vendetta and The Matrix, Weaving presence strikes fear into the onscreen characters, thorough a multitude of characters. Jumping forward once again, I was impressed by Donna Bee’s portrayal of a waitress in the future called Tilda, who transforms into the leader of the rebellion. The audience empathise with her weak nature, but she quickly becomes this brave revolutionary. Audiences are also drawn to the interrogator who is played by James D’Arcy, an actor I was also impressed with. We see him as a cold, hard questioner who begins to relate to Tilda by the end. But we also see him in the very different role of Whishaw’s character’s lover: a complete contrast in roles, both of which he executes with precision and grace. The only tale with a clear weakness is the one set the furthest in the future, in Hawaii: It’s use of supposedly archaic language leaves the audience constantly asking ‘What did he just say?’. Nevertheless, it is pivotal to the plot and must be included. This particular tale sees Hugh Grant as a flesh eating bandit who terrorises Hank’s village. Bit different to Love Actually.

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Wishaw in the idyllic setting of Scotland, contrasting greatly to the futuristic one in Tilda’s story.

The choice to use the same actors for different characters has drawbacks and advantages. Firstly, this technique does show how the characters, through time, can possess good and bad traits. Although, they are not actually connected, it does signify that similar people can be evil or pure. Tom Hanks in the 1849 sailor’s tale is poisoning the protagonist, whereas in his futuristic Hawaii adventure, he is the old, wise hero. On the other hand, a drawback is the constant baffling nature of the film. Instead of thinking ‘which other film are they in?’, I started to think ‘what other part of the film are they in?’. The film’s constant game of ‘Guess who’ becomes tiring and confusing by the end, especially when the characters switch from being old to younger and vice versa. Overall, this technique, although at times confusing, is unique and adds to the film’s range of qualities.

Unique as it is, the separate tales are, largely, nothing new. The premise for nearly all the stories are a struggling young protagonist who overcomes a certain tribulation to eventual success and achievement of their goals. Obviously, all the tales do not stick to this formula strictly, but do usually follow this pattern. The audience are presented with a wealth of information which loosely relates, whilst keeping into the same criteria. This could be seen as a weakness, but on the upside it does highlight the earlier motif: across time, certain people face similar stories and overcome them in their own way. It also comforts the audience by showing that nothing that anyone does, has not been done before, reminiscent of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

Overall, this film is defiantly worth a watch. I exited the cinema feeling somewhat underwhelmed, as I thought that all of the stories would somehow connect perfectly into one huge tale: this doesn’t happen. Instead you are faced with similar stories, with similar actors and with similar story lines. But perhaps that is the beauty of it. Just like real life, tales do not necessarily connect but everyone can relate to certain events. Once I came to terms with that, I started to understand the film. Don’t think that all the stories connect, even though some do. Rather take it as it is: treat the stories as separate and it all starts to fit together. Once I stopped over thinking the separate tales and how they relate to each other, I could appreciate each story for what it was. Although the stories loosely relate, they share the overriding theme being that however small or great your actions, it can echo in eternity: this is the one main motif which links all the stories together and is personified in the birthmark a lot of the protagonists possess. I did enjoy it, but I felt it was nothing new. Cloud Atlas’s cast really make the film and the vivid yet contrasting settings are very powerful. The lack of originality is redeemed by the ease in which it twists and turns between its large spectrum of heart-warming tales. Cloud Atlas isn’t your average film: but it is average. Its premise and structure are totally unique, yet its tales have been done before and although some are touching, it is simply a multitude of standard tales.

66/100

Jack

8/3/13

‘Les Misérables’ Review

‘To love another person is to see the face of God.’

I went to see this film not knowing much about it: I know that’s hard to imagine considering the amount of publicity it gained, but I had not heard a lot at all. All I was aware of was that it was set around the time period of the French revolution. Consequently, I sat down to see this film with no presumptions at all.

Wolverine’s sideburns make a cameo apperance

Firstly, Hugh Jackman’s performance is absolutely world class. I first encountered Jackman in ‘The Prestige’, a tale of two magicians who form a bitter rivalry and was impressed by his strong yet touching performance. I had also seen him before in the X-Men series: the role of Jean Valjean was somewhat different to this, showing how diverse Jackman is an actor. From the off, the audience feel pity for the injustice Jean faces: harsh imprisonment, constant suffering. The audience follow Valjean’s life, through his various trails and tribulations, which make him a loveable character. When he realizes the error of his ways, Valjean becomes a new man: kind, happy and considerate. Yet, his past life haunts him the entirety of the play. Jackman’s portrayal is second to none and if I ever see this at the theatre, he has set the bar high for other actors. It was a shame Daniel Day-Lewis took the Oscar for Lincoln, as I really believed Jackman deserved the award. Nonetheless, his performance is moving, powerful and defiantly contributes immensely to the success of this film.

No man is an island, as they say and Valjean is no different. Anne Hathaway is an excellent supporting actress, one of whom is greatly deserving of an Oscar for her performance of Fantine. What I was surprised at was the short length she was present on screen: within 40 minutes or so her time was up. Nevertheless, her captivating rendition of ‘I dreamed a dream’ was so moving, I would go as far as to say it was better than Susan Boyle’s. Hathaway clearly put her all into this role: Firstly, her hair was actually cut live, as you see it in the film. She is not wearing a wig, as many believe. What is therefore evident to the audience is the true pain Fantine is experiencing, one so skilfully shown by Hathaway. Also, the Daily Mail claims that she lost 25lbs in weight for her role: Subsequently, breaking her arm due to her fragile nature. This was let out by Isabelle Allen, the iconic face of this film, who explained she fell off her bike and suffered the consequences. On one hand, this proves again Hathaway’s dedication but some see this in a darker light. A nutritionist claimed that this could actually harm Isabelle, scornfully stating that the film industry has a ‘toxic preoccupation with extreme thinness.’ Nevertheless, Hathaway threw everything into this character and this is evident on-screen.

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In reply to his critics: ‘Does this not entertain you?’

Another highly prolific character in Les Misérables is Javert, played by Russell Crowe. Gladiator is one of my favourite films and Crowe fits the stereotypical tough solider role perfectly, something he replicates in this. I was really surprised at how well he could sing: many dispute this, and technically he is probably not that good, but so what? I think Crowe sounds fantastic and although he does not have a stronger voice than Jackman, his presence makes up for it. The cold, unforgiving character Javert is is so well played by Crowe, that the audience begin to empathise with him: a man hell-bent on catching Val-Jean because he believes it God’s will. This is his ultimate goal and ends him ultimately. Crowe had me scared yet pitied, which is a skill rarely seen in cinema today.

Tom Hooper first impressed me with ‘The Damned United’ back in 2009. When I realised he directed this, my first thought was just how different the two films are. Despite this, Hooper does an absolutely fantastic job: His casting of Jackman was superb, his decision to record the characters singing live on camera was another clever move and also the way he succinctly moves the story through large time gaps is a wonder to behold. Another accomplishment of this film is the set: located in Hampshire, the massive structure is so detailed, you really feel immersed in 19th century France.

The surrounding cast also make this a wonderful film: Éponine, played by Samantha Barks gives a performance which resonates the audience with the feeling of pain, anguish and unmalicious jealousy. Sasha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham-Cater’s characters also bring a light-hearted touch which lifts the movie from total sadness. It is refreshing to see Colm Wilkinson make an appearance as the Bishop: he is the original Jean Valjean and many see him as the greatest actor of this character. Throughout, these actors hold up the play, making it as fantastic as it is.

Overall, Les Misérables is an astonishing film. I urge anyone who is yet to see it, to view it while it is still on at the cinemas. It was so powerful, when it finished, the people around me, stayed silent for a split second, then erupted in applause. Unlike the theatre, you get detailed settings and close-up shots which simply cannot be done on stage. This is why Les Misérables is an instant classic which exceeds the expectation set by Victor Hugo‘s classic novel.

85/100

Jack

4/3/13

So, Jean, what did you think?

les-miserables-jean-valjeam-approves

‘Into The Wild’ Review

‘If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.’

Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s novel is one of high impact. The audience are thrown into the world of a young university graduate who fakes his disappearance, burns his money and leaves his former world behind: in what he calls ‘the ultimate freedom’.

Emile Hirsch’s performance of Chris McCandless, the lonesome hitchhiker, is wonderful: from the opening minutes you grow attached to him and his journey. The audience can empathize with the pressure of modern life which Chris cannot cope with any longer.

Along his journey, towards his ultimate goal of Alaska, he meets various people. Catherine Kenner’s portrayal of a Jen, a woman who travels around America with her husband, is mesmerizing. She captures the role of his mother, which Chris’ biological mother sadly lacks and Kenner fits the part so well. Jen falls in love with Chris and finds it painfully hard when he leaves for Alaska.
Perhaps one of the most captivating performance is that of Hal Holbrook. Ron Franz is a widower who stumbles upon Chris by chance. He soon grows attached to him, as all his fellow characters do, and after some heart-warming interactions and emotional proposals, Chris has to leave. Much like the character of Jan, Ron plays the part of a surrogate farther who yearns to love Chris as more than a companion but rather a family member.

Chris’ meetings with these various people, those mentioned above and also Kristen Stewart’s and Vince Vaughn’s characters, all teach him to live as himself, under no false pretenses, but also that Chris’ life is missing something: his biological family. What he does with realization is the climax to the plot.

Perhaps the most potent point is that it is all true: the finest details are what actually happened. One sobering fact is that the watch Hersche wears in the film was actually Chris real watch, given to him as a gift from the family.

Senn Penn does an astounding job of making the story of Chris McCandles as touching on the silver screen as I’m sure it was in real life. The cast was superbly picked and give an emotionally packed performance which makes ‘Into The Wild’ one to remember.

78/100

Jack Amor
2/3/13